We appear to be on the downslope of COVID-19, or at least The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is cautiously leaning that way. Missionaries who were whisked away from the field in March had until April 30 to choose whether to reenter the field, typically in a domestic mission (many of the American missionaries seem to be going to Colorado for some reason), or defer for a year and complete their missions later.
As you, the discerning reader might recall, when entire charter flights of missionaries returned to Salt Lake City International Airport in late March, hundreds of families flouted the social distancing guidance from their ecclesiastical and civic leaders and assembled en masse in the airport’s parking garage to give these holy warriors a hero’s welcome.
Hundreds of missionaries from the Philippines are coming back to Salt Lake City today. Social distancing is out the window as people welcome back their family members with posters, balloons, and hugs. @KUTV2News pic.twitter.com/CeyRDtRv9x
— Kelly Vaughen (@KellyVaughen) March 22, 2020
These individuals were roundly condemned across social media, giving Latter-day Saints a bad name for our perceived collective hubris in when facing a public health crisis.
While Church leaders were mostly quiet about the incident, they are not repeating that mistake now that missionaries are descending upon the airport once more, issuing a statement on missionary travel that is mostly a firm reminder for parents to make a light presence at the airport when dropping off their sons and daughters:
As we have recently announced, missionaries throughout the world are departing for their new assignments and will continue to do so during the next several months. Others are returning home at the end of their service. When they depart or return home — regardless of location — we ask missionaries and their families to strictly follow established guidelines to prevent the spread of illness while at the airport or on an airplane. Families should limit the number of people picking up, dropping off, or accompanying a missionary based on local airport regulations. Whenever missionaries are inside the airport or an airplane, they should wear a mask, avoid congregating in groups, not shake hands or hug, and obey all social distancing measures. Above all, missionaries and their families should promptly follow all instructions from airport officials or volunteers. We appreciate the cooperation of missionaries and their families as we all work to follow these important safety guidelines.
Other than the unfortunate split infinitive, this is a cogent statement. Of course, the Church is being diplomatic, yet firm. I’m not. Do. Not. Assemble. At. The. Airport. Like. Goons. Think about something bigger than the experience you will have with your kid as you drop him or her off for their mission.
We should not castigate nor publicly shame anyone who violates these guidelines, but we should hopefully not hear anything about an incident along the lines of what we saw in March. Societal welfare in the face of a global pandemic requires all of us to do our part. Let’s do that.